Raf Simons‘ first show as creative director of Dior is less than a week away. The appointment comes with a lot of baggage (not to mention clout); it’s almost a wonder that he found the time and the sanity to compose a menswear show for his namesake line at all, given the pressures of such resounding public anxiety. That it should be his best collection to date, that it should be the masterpiece it is, is nothing short of miraculous.
Iconoclasm and recalcitrance have always been staple tenets of the male Simons mode. First look out, those motifs weren’t announced so much by the tangled gutter punk hair, but by those parallel slits that hit way above the knee on a pair of black tailored shorts. He proposed a similar conceit at his Jil Sander swan song on a number of skirts. If the first look signaled a greatest hits collection to come (and it did), then its main significance lies in its subtle and seamless coalescence of gender codes. An unmatched sense of balance is another of Simons’ great strengths – he can be robust without being bombast. If his attempt is to abate the strictness of gender rearing, or in layman’s terms – the way men and women dress, respectively, by way of fashion, then he does so with an effective, but controlled shove.
Almost every look practically dared the average joe to question its essential expression. Trainers paired with droopy legged suit pants may be an easier proposition to digest, but Simons still had an army of doozies up his sleeve. The slits on those shorts moved from the front thigh on one pair to the more suggestive, and typically feminine, side of the thighs on another. A nylon topcoat in a soft lavender hung over a printed A-line sheath. The Brian Calvin illustrations that served as the print on the dress showed the juxtaposition, or eventual intertwining, of two faces, two forces, one light – one dark, perhaps man and woman. His message couldn’t have been louder. The vulnerability of male youth defining male youth for itself has always been an emotional through-line in his oeuvre, one with an ecumenical reach. Need a proof positive? Look at how men have been dressing themselves for the past fifteen years.
A spirit haunted the scene at Raf Simons. The ultimate iconoclastic rebel, the totemic icon of male angst himself: Kurt Cobain. The tragic artist once graced the cover of The Face magazine, in all his splendid ennui, wearing a floral dress. He melded that memory onto a navy top coat, the entire back paneled by a floral dress, whose print could’ve come straight from the second entry of his couture trilogy at Jil Sander. Mad and bittersweet, and a potent blow to the binary structures of feeling and sensuality in the modern world.
There were also coats for days. A clan green plaid coat was worn over skimpy kelly green shorts and a pair of those colorful sneakers. Another was imbued from top to bottom in a cobalt blue petal and sunflower print. That’s an ‘out there’, yet feasible proposition if there ever was one, and that’s precisely what Simons has been doing for men for years. He creates what men have always wanted, or didn’t know they wanted, and he has for as long as this generation cares to remember.